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Rehoboth Museum gets OK on Dolle’s sign

Katie Tabeling

The Rehoboth Beach Board of Adjustment has granted a variance to install the Dolle’s sign on the west side of the Rehoboth Beach Museum. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MANN

REHOBOTH BEACH – The Rehoboth Beach Historical Society & Museum has cleared the regulatory hurdle to mount the iconic Dolle’s sign, but now museum officials must turn to fundraising to cover the installation costs.

In a quick public hearing, the Rehoboth Beach Board of Adjustment approved a variance on Dec. 27 to mount the sign on the museum at 511 Rehoboth Ave. The historical society plans to mount the nearly 30-foot tall sign on the facade facing the canal, ideally by April, depending on raising the money to pay for the installation.

“We are well into our fundraising for this, and this is a $30,000 project, maybe a little more since we had to store it,” Rehoboth Beach Museum  Board President David Mann told the Delaware Business Times. “Once word got out that we were interested, some people even offered to make donations. But it didn’t feel right until it was settled and we followed procedure.”

The cost of $30,000 included removal at roughly $10,000 and reinstallation at $20,000, according to an estimate from Rogers Sign Company. Initially, the plan was for Rogers Signs to drive the Dolle’s sign less than a mile away on a flatbed truck to the museum, but since it exceeded the space for signs per city code, it needed to go before the adjustment board.

For now, the Dolle’s sign sits in a city storage yard.

The iconic Dolle’s sign no longer overlooks its end of the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, but a smaller sign remains at the stores new location just a few storefronts down. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The Dolle’s sign came down on Dec. 15, weeks before the final deadline set to Dolle’s Candyland owner Tom Ibach. Dolle’s Candyland has been a Delaware icon since it opened on the boardwalk in 1927 out of the former YMCA. The current sign was created by Rogers Sign as a replacement for one that broke in a 2002 nor’easter.

The news of removing the Dolle’s sign has been a story that many Delawareans and other resort visitors have been following throughout the year, with many launching petitions and Facebook campaigns to save it as a piece of local history. Mann himself was “amazed” at the emotional response the Dayglow sign has inspired, and even acknowledged it in his comments to Rehoboth Beach officials.

“We find ourselves in a position of trying to preserve something that’s become iconic and legendary within not only the city of Rehoboth Beach, but also the region and on a national level,” Mann told the board. “The landscape of the boardwalk is changing. That sign has been there in the last 60 years, and we want to do everything we can to keep that time from becoming part of forgotten history.”

The Rehoboth Beach Historical Society & Museum has scores of signs and advertisements and plans on establishing a permanent display, but with many signs rotating out due to the space. Right now, the largest one on display is a blue Dolle’s sign, this one about 6 feet in size that was mounted on the brick facade at window level. Ibach also donated that sign about a year ago.

Museum Executive Director Nancy Alexander pointed out the Dolle’s sign would easily fall into the nonprofit’s goal of preserving artifacts that hold the resort’s collective memories.

“I have lived here for a number of years, and one wise person told me that the sign is more than about candy. It’s about the memories,” she said.

The museum building is owned by the city of Rehoboth Beach, but the commissioners and Mayor Stan Mills have blessed the project. The Rehoboth Beach Board of Appeals imposed a condition that the sign needed to be mounted as low as possible and that the bottom of the sign does not block any windows facing the canal.

Looking to the future, Mann noted that the attention and the glamour that came with preserving the Dolle’s sign may also translate into other opportunities to get the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society & Museum more well-known for other funding avenues.

“We have to raise $120,000 for a new air conditioning system and roof repairs, and that’s an entirely different proposition. We don’t decide our own fate, we have to live off the generosity of others,” Mann told DBT. “We’re hoping that this will make people more familiar with the wonderful programming the museum offers.”

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